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Keywords:

  • conceptual framework;
  • disability;
  • International Classification of Functioning;
  • Disability and Health;
  • nursing practice;
  • education;
  • research

Background.  Nursing conceptualizes disability from largely medical and individual perspectives that do not consider its social dimensions. Disabled people are critical of this paradigm and its impact on their health care.

Aim.  The aims of this paper are to review the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF), including its history and the theoretical models upon which it is based and to discuss its relevance as a conceptual framework for nursing.

Method.  The paper presents a critical overview of concepts of disability and their implications for nursing and argues that a broader view is necessary. It examines ICF and its relationship to changing paradigms of disability and presents some applications for nursing.

Conclusion.  The ICF, with its acknowledgement of the interaction between people and their environments in health and disability, is a useful conceptual framework for nursing education, practice and research. It has the potential to expand nurses’ thinking and practice by increasing awareness of the social, political and cultural dimensions of disability.